Right around the time that the pot starts to turn brown on the bottom, my husband (having smelled the aroma) usually walks in, looks in the pot, and says “Wow, that it is going to be really hard to clean.” And then, like a magician, I make the brown bottom disappear. I pour in a little liquid, either broth or wine, and using my wooden spoon, I scrape up the brown bits on the bottom. This is my favorite part: gently stirring up all that flavor. I add a few spices - maybe some fresh herbs - and stir a little more. With some recipes, I add a little butter at the very end, and stir, stir, stir.
Have you ever considered how we get “stirred” up? We have pet peeves. Sometimes we say that someone is “pushing our buttons”, or we are aware that we are “getting triggered”. Life events can also stir us up. In my grief group, I was asked to choose a word from a “feelings” list that describes how I feel after losing my mother. Among others, I chose “agitated”, thinking of my old washing machine with a center agitator. The machine would aggressively rotate back and forth, tossing my clothes and splashing soap and water. It seemed the perfect word to describe how I was feeling since my mom’s death had stirred up feelings of loss, sadness, anger, irritation, and even anxiety.
And we are not the only ones getting stirred. At times we are the ones that stir up, trigger and push other people’s buttons. And unfortunately, this can be especially true of the people we are closest to and love the most, like our family members.
Here’s the scripture that stirred me up, in a good way:
And let us consider how we may stir up one another to love and good works.”
The cooking visual implies something else that is true: the things getting stirred up are already there. Desires, emotions, and memories. Words and actions that brought joy or pain. Stories I have believed that may or may not be true. They are there, sometimes buried, and then powerful events like a death or a loss stir them up. People stir them up by things they say or don’t say, things they do or don’t do. Abrupt, back and forth movement that causes emotional sloshing and splashing.
A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart…
For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.
This idea that I am to “stir up” others in a positive way, toward love and good works, challenges me. In my relationships, I have the opportunity to stir up good things that are already in my children’s hearts, my husband’s heart, my friends’ and family members’ hearts. By asking questions, listening well, and affirming the positive qualities I see in my loved ones, I can stir them up to love and to good works.
I overhear my husband handling a difficult phone call while working from home, and I affirm him for his polite, professional tone with a difficult client. He takes my encouragement to heart and continues to patiently work with each client to find workable solutions.
As a family we serve the under-resourced, and my youngest daughter gets “stirred up” to do some chores, earn some money, and give to the poor.
I listen as my teenage daughter shares about a difficult situation at school, and instead of immediately telling her my opinion, which is my natural tendency, I ask a few questions, “drawing out” her thoughts. I ask her how she sees things, how she thinks she should handle it. In doing so, I stir up what is already in her heart. There may still be a place for me to share my opinion, but I want to start with patient, gentle stirring.
The purposes of a person's heart are deep waters,
but one who has insight draws them out.
I am a wooden spoon, and in my relationships I want to stir gently, patiently, over low heat. I’m going for a simmer, not a rolling boil. I am not using a pressure cooker, an electric mixer, or a blender. I am not vigorously whisking; I am stirring. I want to add understanding and encouragement. Gentleness. Patience. Taking the time to develop the flavors and cultivate tenderness.
Let us consider how we might stir up the people God has placed in our lives
to love and good deeds.